We all know that getting enough sleep is crucial to our health. Impaired sleep can impact everything from memory to muscle repair, so it’s no wonder we worry about it as much as we do (via National Sleep Foundation). But did you know that the position in which you sleep matters too? It’s true — everything from your sleeping position to the type and age of the pillow you use could be impacting the way you feel when you wake up, and if you’ve ever woken up with a stiff, painful neck after a night of sleeping “wrong” then this article is for you.
You might be able to guess that stomach sleeping is the worst posture for neck pain, while back sleeping is the best (via Today). This makes sense if you think about it: Lying on the back means your neck is at rest and your spine is aligned and supported, while lying on your stomach requires you to arch your upper back and turn your head to one side in order to breathe. Holding that pose all night can lead to serious neck pain in the morning (via Daily Mail).
The best way to sleep on your back
Stomach sleeping can be a really tough habit to break, especially if you’ve been doing it all your life. Luckily, there are ways to make back sleeping more comfortable. First, make sure you aren’t elevating your head too much (or not enough). If you’re already a back-sleeper and still have neck pain in the mornings, chances are the issue is with your pillow placement. You want a flat, memory foam-type pillow, or a neck roll to support the head without elevating it too much (via Business Insider). Alternatively, you could try a pillow designed to help with neck pain that has an indentation for the head to rest in (via Harvard Healthbeat).
Another option for making this sleeping position more comfortable is to place a pillow under your knees to reduce the pressure on your spine and hip joints, or a wedge-shaped pillow under your back for some elevation (you can find them on Amazon). If, however, you just can’t fall asleep on your back, the next best option is to sleep on your side.
The best way to sleep on your side
Just as with back sleeping, the secret to making side sleeping more comfortable is to use pillows for added support. Whether you prefer feather or foam, you should position your head and neck pillows so that the neck is straight, not bending up or down. This, in addition to a strategic pillow between the knees, or below the waist, will help reduce the pressure on the lower back, hips, and knees, which means less stiffness and tension when you wake.
However, if you find even the addition of support pillows isn’t enough for your neck, you might want to invest in a new mattress and a few new pillows. Harvard Healthbeat claims that feather pillows should be replaced every year, as they collapse with time and use. Mattresses, on the other hand, can last up to ten years, or until they start causing problems (via NBC News). So, if you inherited that lumpy mattress second hand, or can’t remember the last time you bought a new pillow, it might be time for an upgrade to reduce the pressure on your spine at night (via Psychology Today). Sweet dreams!
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